CONAKRY (Reuters) - A gas explosion has killed as many as 25 people in a gold mine in eastern Guinea, a resident and a police source said on Thursday.
The accident took place on Wednesday at an artisanal mine in the remote Siguiri province, 800 km (500 miles) northeast of Conakry. The zone holds some of the West African country's largest gold reserves.
Noumouke Dioubate, a Siguiri resident who witnessed the rescue operation, said 14 bodies had been found but he believed that none of the 25 miners in the pit at the time of the explosion could have survived.
A police source confirmed that 14 bodies had been recovered at the site. "The walls of the mine are too narrow and it's impossible to survive this kind of accident," he said, asking not to be identified.
Artisanal mining in mineral-rich Guinea is legal. But it is notoriously dangerous and in July four people were killed in a similar incident.
"Authorities have been battling for years to find ways and means to assure the security of artisanal miners," government spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said. "This accident shows that there is still a lot of work to do."
Guinea is also one of the world's top bauxite exporters and has large, untapped iron ore reserves that have lured large global miners.
(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by David Lewis and Dale Hudson)